[Federal Register Volume 68, Number 29 (Wednesday, February 12, 2003)]
[Pages 7164-7167]
From the Federal Register Online via the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]
[FR Doc No: 03-3501]



Federal Highway Administration

Amber Plan Program Support Assistance; Request for Applications

AGENCY: Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), DOT.

ACTION: Notice; request for applications.


SUMMARY: This document requests applications for assistance from public 
agencies in supporting Amber Plan Programs in each State. The U.S. DOT 
Amber Plan Grant Program will provide up to seven million dollars in 
grants to States (including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) 
to fund the application of Intelligent Transportation Systems to 
facilitate the inclusion of State and local transportation agencies 
into existing or proposed Amber Plan Programs. The intent is to provide 
funds to States for the purpose of planning the systems and procedures 
necessary to incorporate various traveler information systems such as 
changeable message signs (CMS) in the issuance of Amber Alerts.

DATES: Applications for Amber Plan Program support assistance must be 
received prior to August 1, 2003. Decisions regarding the acceptance of 
specific applications for funding will be made within 60 business days 
of receipt.

ADDRESSES: Applications for Amber Plan Program support assistance 
should be submitted electronically via e-mail to 
[email protected], or mailed directly to the Federal Highway 
Administration, Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) Joint Program 
Office, Amber Plan Support, HOIT-1, 400 Seventh St., SW., Room 3416, 
Washington, DC 20590-0001.

Transportation Management (HOTM-1), (202) 366-2194; Mr. Craig Allred, 
ITS Joint Program Office (HOIT-1), (202) 366-8034; or Ms. Gloria 
Hardiman-Tobin, Office of Chief Counsel (HCC-40), (202) 366-0780; 
Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, 400 
Seventh Street, SW., Washington, DC 20590-0001. Office hours are from 8 
a.m. to 4:30 p.m., e.t., Monday through Friday, except Federal 


Electronic Access

    An electronic copy of this document may be downloaded using a modem 
and suitable communications software from the Government Printing 
Office's Electronic Bulletin Board Service at (202) 512-1661. Internet 
users may reach the Office of the Federal Register's Home page at 
http://www.archives.gov/federal_register and the Government Printing 
Office's Web page at http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara.
    The document may also be viewed at the DOT's ITS Home page at 


    The Amber Plan Program is a voluntary program where law enforcement 
agencies partner with broadcasters to issue an urgent bulletin in the 
most serious child abduction cases. These bulletins notify the public 
about abductions of children. The U.S. DOT recognizes the value of the 
Amber Plan Program and fully supports the State and local governments' 
choice to implement this program.
    Alerts of recent serious child abductions may be communicated 
through various means including radio and television stations, highway 
advisory radio, changeable message signs (CMS), and other media. Under 
certain circumstances, using CMS to display child abduction messages as 
part of an Amber Plan Program has been determined to be consistent with 
current FHWA policy governing the use of CMS and the type of messages 
that are displayed. The FHWA, in fact, recently issued a policy 
memorandum that supports the use of changeable message signs (CMS) for 
Amber Alerts. This memorandum may be viewed at the following url: 
    A key factor in the success of the Amber Plan Program is the need 
for public agencies to develop formal Amber Plan policies that include 
a sound set of procedures for calling an Amber Alert. If public 
agencies decide to display an Amber Alert or child abduction messages 
on a CMS, the FHWA has determined that this application is acceptable 
only if it is part of a well-established local Amber Plan Program, and 
public agencies have developed a formal policy that governs the 
operation and messages that are displayed on CMS.
    Local Amber Plan Programs should include written criteria for 
issuing and calling off an Amber Alert, procedures on issues to 
coordinate with local

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agencies and other interests, and should conform to the recommendations 
of the National Amber Plan Program. Information about the National 
Amber Plan Program may be found at the following url: http://www.missingkids.com/html/amberplan.html. The general criteria for 
issuing an Alert and the associated procedures may include confirmation 
that a child has been abducted; belief that the circumstances 
surrounding the abduction indicate that the child is in danger of 
serious bodily harm or death, and enough descriptive information about 
the child, abductor, and/or suspect's vehicle to believe an immediate 
broadcast alert will help.
    Of specific interest to the U.S. DOT are that these policies and 
procedures provide specific guidance on displaying Amber Alert or child 
abduction messages on CMS. Such guidance should address items such as 
the criteria when CMS will be used for Amber Alerts; clear 
identification of the law enforcement agency responsible for issuing 
the alert; which agencies, interests, and persons are to be contacted 
to initiate or call off an Amber Alert; circumstances under which the 
Amber Alert message could or could not be displayed; length of time to 
display the message; geographic area over which the information is to 
be displayed; circumstances that would cause the discontinuation of use 
of the CMS if the Amber Alert message creates an adverse traffic 
impact; and format and content of the messages to be displayed.
    In general, the Amber Plan Program has proven to be a very 
effective yet relatively simple and inexpensive program to implement. 
However, the inclusion of the transportation community and the use of 
various highway advisory systems such as CMS as part of an Amber Plan 
Program has exposed several issues that need to be addressed in order 
for such use to be effective and an appropriate use of the advanced 
technology may be appropriate.
    One key issue that has broad implications beyond Amber Alerts is 
the lack of well established communication systems and protocols 
between the public safety community and the transportation community or 
the inability of such systems to be used for the purposes of conveying 
Amber Alert information among agencies. Currently most Amber Alerts are 
communicated to Transportation Operations Centers by telephone or 
facsimile. While there is no evidence that these relatively informal 
``low-tech'' arrangements are not effective, such an informal system, 
dependant on simple communication methods, certainly has the potential 
for problems such as missed calls, data errors, and erroneous or false 
alerts. Furthermore, the lack of formal communication links has larger 
implications for highway incident response, hazmat incidents, natural 
disasters, and security related events. A number of jurisdictions have 
identified this broader need for communication and have established 
communication systems among the various public safety and 
transportation agencies to report and coordinate response to incidents 
but it is not clear whether any of these systems have been used for 
Amber Alerts.
    Another obstacle that has been identified is the lack of capability 
for jurisdictions to issue area wide messages on CMS or other traveler 
information systems. These systems are generally intended to alert 
motorists to a localized condition (e.g., an incident on a specific 
roadway). As a result, in some jurisdictions, the systems that control 
these signs are not capable of posting the same message on all signs 
across a region. The result in the case of an Amber Alert is a rather 
labor intensive and time consuming process to change the message on the 
signs one sign at a time. Currently several of these jurisdictions are 
exploring ways to upgrade their systems to provide such capability. 
This has implications for other area wide situations such as a major 
natural disaster or security related event where evacuation or other 
critical information may need to be conveyed to motorists over a broad 
    A third issue that can impact the appropriate use of CMS for Amber 
Alerts is the fact that many transportation operation centers are not 
staffed around the clock. In those cases, if an Amber Alert or other 
critical message needs to be posted on CMS, an off-duty operator has to 
be contacted by an appropriate authority so he or she can return to the 
operations center and post the message. Another option is to give a 
public safety agency the capability and authority to post such messages 
during off hours. In some jurisdictions, this problem has been resolved 
by linking operations centers and providing for the transfer of control 
to a designated back-up center. In some cases these back-up centers are 
continuously operated Transportation Operation Centers; in other cases, 
these are emergency response centers (e.g., police dispatch centers). 
In either case, both technological and institutional issues must be 
resolved to provide this important functionality.
    Another concern is that jurisdictions must have the basic 
capability to communicate such information to motorists via CMS or 
other traveler information systems. Currently, CMS deployment is 
largely limited to urban freeways, and even in some of our largest 
metropolitan areas, the numbers of such signs are often limited. While 
it is not practical to widely deploy such systems for the specific 
purposes of issuing Amber Alerts, there is some value to increasing our 
overall capability to communicate with motorists. Exploring and 
planning alternative methods of providing information to travelers and 
expanding the use of such systems for such purposes as Amber Alerts 
should be pursued.
    Finally, there is the issue of the message to be conveyed. There is 
anecdotal evidence of Amber Alerts being provided by multi-panel 
messages containing details such as the type of vehicle, the license 
plate number, and the ten-digit number to call adversely impact traffic 
as drivers attempted to read and possibly copy all the relevant 
information. Clearly, it is important to ensure that these signs are 
properly and safely used as part of an overall effort to provide 
information on Amber Alerts.

Objectives of the Amber Alert Grant Program

    The proposed U.S. DOT Amber Plan Grant Program will provide up to 
$7 million in grants to States (including Puerto Rico and the District 
of Columbia) to fund the application of Intelligent Transportation 
Systems (ITS) to facilitate the inclusion of State and local 
transportation agencies into existing or proposed Amber Plan Programs. 
The intent is to facilitate, through the use of advanced technologies, 
the seamless coordination between law enforcement agencies and 
transportation communities necessary to implement an Amber Alert using 
changeable message signs or other traveler information systems and to 
improve our overall capability of communicating Amber Alerts and other 
important information to motorists.
    Each State (including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia) may 
apply for a grant of $125,000 for planning, coordinating and designing 
of systems, protocols, and message sets that support the coordination 
and communication necessary to issue an Amber Alert and to provide the 
means to communicate an Amber Alert to motorists. This funding would 
ensure that the notification is well designed and integrated between 
the law enforcement and transportation communities.
    Once such planning has been completed, any remaining funds from

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the grant could be used to support the implementation of systems that 
will support the dissemination of Amber Alert messages via CMS or other 
traveler information systems.


    The instrument to provide funding, on a cost reimbursable basis, 
will be a Federal-aid project agreement. Federal funding authority is 
derived from Sec.  5001(a)(5) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 
21st Century (TEA-21), Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107, 419 (1998). 
Actual award of funds will be subject to funding availability. Federal 
ITS funding for Amber Plan support assistance may be used as necessary 

    1. Developing general policies and procedures that would guide the 
use of CMS or other motorist information systems to issue Amber Alerts.
    2. Developing guidance or policies on the content and format of 
alert messages being conveyed on CMS or other traveler information 
    3. Coordinating State, regional, and local plans for use of CMS or 
other transportation related issues.
    4. Planning secure and reliable communications systems and 
protocols between public safety and transportation agencies or modify 
existing communications systems to support Amber Alerts.
    5. Planning and designing improved systems for communicating with 
motorists including the capability for issuing wide area alerts to 
    6. Planning systems and protocols to facilitate the efficient 
issuance of Amber Alerts and other key information to motorists during 
    7. Providing training and guidance to transportation authorities to 
facilitate appropriate use of CMS and other traveler information 
systems for Amber Alerts.

Once these eligible activities are complete, any remaining funding 
allocated under agreements resulting from this request may be used to 
implement the systems that will support the dissemination of Amber 
Alert messages via CMS or other traveler information systems. This 
includes systems necessary to establish the necessary communications 
between appropriate public safety and transportation agencies to post 
Amber Alerts on CMS; systems necessary to provide for wide area alerts 
to motorists; and systems necessary for 24-hour operation of such 
systems. Note: The actual purchase of CMS or other on-street or in-
vehicle hardware is not eligible for funding under this program.

Matching Share/Cost Sharing

    There is a statutorily required minimum twenty percent matching 
share that must be from non-federally derived funding sources, and must 
consist of either cash, substantial equipment contributions that are 
wholly utilized as an integral part of the project, or personnel 
services dedicated full-time to the project for a substantial period, 
as long as such personnel are not otherwise supported with Federal 
funds.\1\ The non-federally derived funding may come from State, local 
government, or private sector partners. However, funding identified to 
support continued operations, maintenance, and management of the system 
will not be considered as part of the partnership's cost-share 

    \1\ See Sec.  5001(b) of the Transportation Equity Act for the 
21st Century, Pub. L. 105-178; 112 Stat. 107, June 1998.

    Offerors are encouraged to consider additional matching share above 
the required minimum match described above. Those offerors willing to 
propose additional match may include the value of federally supported 
projects directly associated with the proposed project.
    Grantees shall maintain financial records that detail the 
activities provided by Federal funding, indicating appropriate total 
matching requirements, as described under the heading, Matching Share/
Cost Sharing. The U.S. DOT and the Comptroller General of the United 
States have the right to access all documents pertaining to the use of 
Federal ITS funds and non-Federal contributions. Grantees and sub-
grantees are responsible for obtaining audits in accordance with the 
Single Audit Act Amendments of 1996 (31 U.S.C. 7501-7507) and revised 
Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-133, Audits of States, 
Local Governments, and Non-Profit Organizations, dated June 24, 1997, 
that is available at the following url: http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/circulars/a133/a133.html. The audits shall be conducted by an 
independent auditor in accordance with generally accepted government 
auditing standards covering financial audits found at 49 CFR 18.26.

Instructions to Applicants

    An application for Amber Plan program assistance shall consist of 
two parts: (1) A proposed technical approach; and (2) a financial plan. 
Together these two elements must describe the proposed activities to be 
conducted with this funding. The complete application shall not exceed 
15 pages in length, including the Amber Plan Approach, the Financial 
Plan, the title page, index, and tables. A page is defined as one side 
of an 8\1/2\ by 11-inch paper, with a type font no smaller than 12 
    Applications shall be submitted in an electronic format compatible 
with Microsoft Office 2000. The cover sheet or title page of the 
application shall include the name, address, and phone number of an 
individual to whom correspondence and questions about the application 
may be directed. Any portion of the application or its contents that 
may contain proprietary information shall be clearly indicated; 
otherwise, the application and its contents shall be non-proprietary.

Application Content

    Applicants must submit an acceptable Technical Approach and 
Financial Plan that together provide sound evidence that the objectives 
of this program can successfully be completed in a timely fashion.
    Applications should be organized into the following two sections:

1. Technical Approach

    The application should describe the proposed approach for 
establishing the systems, protocols and message sets necessary for 
posting of Amber Alert messages on CMS and other traveler information 
systems. The following paragraphs illustrate the general information 
that applicants should include in this section of the application.
    (A) The application should identify candidate agencies or 
organizations that will be engaged in the proposed activities. These 
organizations may include, but not be limited to: highway agencies, 
public safety agencies, sources of traveler information, and commercial 
radio and television stations. It is expected that the slate of 
organizations, agencies, and firms involved in developing an Amber Plan 
Program will be adjusted as deployment plans are developed.
    (B) The application should discuss institutional or organizational 
issues that will affect the Amber Plan Program and the involvement of 
the transportation community in that program, and what candidate 
techniques or activities will be used to address these issues. Prior 
activities that identified or addressed Amber Plan Program issues may 
be described in this section to provide a complete portrayal of the 
breadth of effort by the applicant to develop a plan for regional 
    (C) The application should describe the expected product(s) of the 
activities described in paragraph (B) of this

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section. It is expected that reports, plans, presentations, or other 
products would be produced by these activities for use by the 
applicant. The applicant should propose which of these products may 
serve as deliverables to the ITS-JPO under any resultant agreement from 
this request. The final deliverables will be determined in negotiations 
between the ITS-JPO and the selected locations.
    (D) The application should include a proposed schedule or timeline 
for completion of the proposed activities and outputs for which the 
grant will be used. The schedule should include milestone events or 
targeted activities, especially indicating any activities that require 
ITS-JPO actions or actions by organizations typically not influenced by 
the applying agency. Additionally, the schedule should also indicate 
targets for delivery of any products or outputs from development 

2. Financial Plan

    The Financial Plan should demonstrate that sufficient funding is 
available to successfully complete all aspects of the proposed 
development of the plans and designs described in section 1. 
Additionally, the Financial Plan shall provide the financial 
information described under the heading, Matching Share/Cost Sharing.

An acceptable Financial Plan should:

    (A) Provide a clear identification of the proposed funding for 
activities leading to the development of a comprehensive plan for 
issuing Amber Alerts, and a commitment that no more than 80 percent of 
the total cost will be supported by Federal ITS funds. As appropriate, 
financial commitments from other public agencies and from private firms 
should be documented appropriately, such as through memorandums of 
    (B) Describe how the proposed systems will be developed to ensure 
their timely implementation and the continued long-term operations of 
the systems.
    (C) As appropriate, include corresponding public and/or private 
investments that minimize the relative percentage and amount of Federal 
ITS funds. Also include evidence of continuing fiscal capacity and 
commitment from anticipated public and private sources.

    Authority: Sec. 5001(a)(5), Pub. L. 105-178, 112 Stat. 107, 420; 
23 U.S.C. 315; and 49 CFR 1.48.

    Issued on: February 6, 2003.
Mary E. Peters,
Federal Highway Administrator.
[FR Doc. 03-3501 Filed 2-11-03; 8:45 am]